This stage of parenting is pretty sweet. It’s not without its complexities, or challenges. Far from it. I still make mistakes all over the place. I am winging it all the time. Sometimes wildly. At times, the sibling dynamics are killing me slowly. But their little spongy minds are amazing. Their physical independence a thing of beauty. Sure it was cute(ish) when they were learning to talk/walk/eat/sleep. But these days, they’re a bit more formed – they can fetch themselves a drink and snack themselves (or steal smarties before me and their dad wake up). It’s a thing of wonder.
We’ve (mostly) got the basics down, and now the real fun’s starting. Now we can start working out the world together. Now we can start puzzling out some of the tricky, grey unsure stuff with them. The conversations have (mostly) moved on from “we don’t hit” and “share nicely” to jucier topics. Like why Nelson Mandela was in prison for all those years. Or why the term “gay” gets used as a playground insult. This, I like (the conversations you understand, not Nelson Mandela being imprisoned or using gay as an insult). This I have an energy and enthusiasm for that I just didn’t have for introducing solid foods to my third baby on the trot, or dealing with the third set of toddler tantrums (not that I had a great deal for the first two sets of those either!).
I love the fact that the big kids know beyond measure that we all make mistakes. All of us. Even the Queen herself. Even their headteacher (who is closer to royalty in their minds). Even their mum and dad, who for good or for ill have all sorts of power over their day to day existence. I love that they know this. I love that they believe it to be true. I love that we helped them work that out.
In no way am I self-satisfied. In no way am I sitting back, arms folded, clear that I’ve done a Good Job. Some of the ways my kids behave, especially toward one another is, at times, a little horrifying. Some of the inter-sibling psychological torment makes me wince and fear for what they are doing to one another’s psyches. Sometimes their (age appropriate) egotism drives me crazy. Believe me, we’ve got plenty of work to do. But I kind of like it.
I once saw these post-preschool, pre-teenage years described as something of a golden age. I agree. I’m a fan. They’re porous. They’re interested. They’re a bit sneaky at times, and a lot annoying at others. The more time the kids are out and about in the big wide world, the more we get a sense of how we’re doing as their parents. The feedback’s getting a bit more specific – what’s going well, and what needs a little (or a lot) of work. How they negotiate their friendships. Their great successes and their epic fails. The choices they make, the mistakes they make and how they’re making sense of it all. And sometimes, just sometimes, I get a little glimmer of something a bit awesome. Something I may have played a small part in creating.
So, this is my love letter to this moment in time. To these small uniform clad people who are currently staring vacantly at Spongebob, having used up a good portion of their physical and mental energy under someone else’s watch (did I ever mention how grateful I am for school??!) giving me time to pursue a few of the things I’m excited about, have a few grown up conversations and restore my physical and mental energies. This is a little outpouring of gratitude for having moved onwards and upwards in this childrearing journey, from something so unrelentingly physical to something more varied and engaging – for this little golden pool of manageability, having left behind the pandemonium of preschoolers and before something altogether more tumultuous and hormonal becomes the norm.
That said, I hope that I continue to find moments that feel something like this – even when life has moved on again, and looks different. Even when the kids are bigger, smellier and hairier, and the conversations we’re having are a whole load more tricky than the ones we’re having right now. But for now, I shall enjoy the moment, temporary as it may be, sweet as it is.